The distribution of NWFP's varies from place to place. As with livestock husbandry and cropping, rainfall is the principle limiting factor affecting the abundance of the most important edible NWFP. Soil type/fertility plays an indisputable role in the distribution of the products. Most of the animal origin products are heavily influenced by habitat. Most of the wildlife prefer reasonable forest cover.
Furthermore, human settlements with their livestock have a direct and indirect influence on the distribution and quantity available of these resources. This can be viewed from two perspectives. It can be a negative or positive influence. As is said above products such as those from marula, bird plum (Berchemia discolor) are mainly grown where people settled before. In the most inhabited areas of the northern part (Owambo) they grow on farmland.
Some forest products flourish well in the absence of disturbance. The more the areas are being opened up for settlement, the less these forest products are abundant. Examples are good/quality grazing, Mopane worms, game, some fruit trees. This is influenced by a number of factors:
i) People disturb habitat for wildlife by reducing forest cover. Moths/butterflies which lay eggs on Mopane forests do not like disturbance. Hence they do not lay enough eggs in the disturbed areas.
ii) Rainfall influences the production of NWFPs. Many people note that resources were insufficient in poor rainfall years, whilst in good rainfall years, the supply exceeds their demand. Some elderly people believe that a good rainfall season is followed by a good productive year. While others noted that some products are uninfluenced by the current rainfall season.
iii) Fire also affects the production of NWFPs. The San/Vakwangali study (1998) indicated that fire was also a limiting factor to the production of fruits. At first, this can be true, particularly in animal origin products. Tortoise and hedgehog do not survive fires. Hence the population of these spp. may be seriously affected for a number of years after a fire. Fires also contribute to the shortage of grazing, which leads to the death of a big number of many grass dependant game. Fires also open up forests (habitat for game) which expose them to predators which will cause them to disappear at a very fast rate. The positive role of fires in natural forest products cannot be forgotten at all. Fire opens up ground canopies and allows sun to penetrate through and reach the ground which results in more tuber plants and often seeds regenerating abundantly. Some organisations also prefer to live in dry wood which may be available after fire passed through the forest for several times.
Non-wood forest products are ranked differently by different communities, for example Oshiwambo speaking people do not rank Manketti as such a very important product as ranked by Okavango people. In the case of Marula, it is quite the opposite in these two communities. Bushman (San) community rank wild fruits and berries as the number one product, in a way that they easily compare with agricultural crops in other communities. For example, there is a story saying that at one time a Bushman person who was handling Mahangu (millets) in the presence of an Oshiwambo speaking person. A lot of Mahangu spilled out on the floor, the Owambo person got angry and shouted at the busman, "hey, you don't waste Mahangu, do you know it costs a lot of energy to produce Mahangu? In reply the Bushman person said, "it does not cost as much as berries from the veld, so it does not matter because grewia berries, for example, also spill on the floor". In this story one can see, the strong bias in value system.
A number of types of veld food are collected at subsistence level. It is close to impossible to determine the monetary values of many veld food. There are proposals to work out and promote the marketing of wild fruits and other products. To attain this, promotional work in terms of financial input and moral support to the users is a prerequisite. This will end up in two different streams. On one hand, it will increase the financial income of some individual gathers. Many people will realise the monetary values of their products. It is also hoped that owners will take care of their trees which will also encourage people to plant more trees. This is particularly true in the case of those people who possess some land on which they can grow these trees. It will increase income for the tree growers, so that they will be able to meet other needs by using such cash.
In the case of products such as marula nuts/oil, it is clear that they are economically viable. In addition to the fact that they are in high demand at local and national level, they are also found in places outside Namibia. The economic feasibility of Marula oil was discussed earlier. For this reason, it is appropriate to mention that in order to create proper projects for the full benefit of the local poor people, there is a need to support them with infrastructures and equipment so that they process these products to add more value to the product. Eventually, it will add more value and respect to the forestry sector at large.
On the other hand this might result in a disastrous situation. As has been discussed earlier, a considerable number of people (e.g. San people) depend on NWFP for their livelihood, especially during the dry period. Most of these foods are found in the veld where the land mainly belongs to all the people living in the given community. When it is clearly established that there is a significant value on trees and other veld products, individuals who are more able to collect such products will do this and only they will gain all benefits which are normally shared by all members of the community. This move will not improve the standard of living of many people instead of only a few individuals. If this happens, it will not only increase starvation to some communities but also increase the unwelcomed skewness of the well fair distribution of the Namibian society. In the area where ownership of the property is well defined, promotion of the NWFP is a move to be taken without hesitation. When the forest products are marketed in the modern market, people who are living in urban areas with money will benefit more. But it may be possible that those in rural areas with little or no alternative to obtain food for a day will be seriously affected. Trees which already grow in the field, such as Marula, Bird plum, plan trees, Jackals berries, should be the first products to be promoted.
It is not well determined if the costs of these veld foods will be adequate to buy other commodities with the same values of veld food in its natural state, which may be used as complementary if not supplementary of forest products. In well established communities other than Bushman, commercialisation of wild food may turn into a positive side of development. One can easily say that in a community which is not well organised, other people (capitalists) who are able to collect and buy these products to take them to the final destination will end up getting a bigger portion of the real value of the products. It is therefore important to move with conscious effort in commercialising some of the NWFPs in different communities.
The official figure on exploitation and exportation of NWFP for the most important products. For the last two years, 100 litres of oil was exported to Germany. This is still on a trial basis. Marula wine is mainly consumed locally in the informal market. As discussed on page 10, this wine is already utilised at commercial level in neighbouring South Africa. The potential of marula wine has been realised beyond doubt that it can be fully utilised at commercial scale. One of the famous liqueurs in South Africa `Amarula' is related to the marula fruits. country
These are not yet harvested at commercial level. However, research work has been intensified to come up with a way to utilise the nuts. The first Phase of the Manketti nut project confirms that there is a potential both locally and outside the country to market the oil on a commercial basis. The second phase is about to start for another 2 - 3 years. During this phase the project will look and advertise the product even more forcefully than it did before.
Another product that finds its place in the market outside Namibia is baskets made from makalani palm leaves. These are sold in South Africa. A basket of about 70 cm height and 40 cm in diameter is sold for about N$100.00 each. Unfortunately, this is sold informally. It is only estimated that about 300 baskets are sent to South Africa. Also individual European tourists like the product.
Generally the San has open access to all natural resources, including both plant/origin and wildlife resources. They regard most of the properties as belonging to all. For other ethnic groups, such as Vakwangali in Okavango region, utilisation of natural resources appeared to be confined to those areas that fall under a village to which a particular individual belongs. This can be applied sometimes in practice although in theory all people should have direct access to natural resources on public lands.
As it was said earlier, the realisation of tree values will increase the protection of resources. Destructive activities such as tree cutting/harvesting, fire (bush fire), hunting of game and bee/honey harvesting will be properly controlled.
Sometimes it is difficult to enforce the rules and regulations which are put in place through unwritten laws. The traditional authority used to have respect and effective rules, unfortunately, with change, some of these institutions are no longer as effective as they were 20 - 30 years ago. Community bylaws will need to be written down in order to ensure the effectiveness in managing and implementing rules and regulations to control access to, and use of, land and natural resources. The good news is that in many local communities fruit trees are not cut down even when grown on cultivated land. Many people prefer them growing in their field because it increases ownership to the products.
Local Communities have different ways of preserving their food. Due to the fact that most of veld foods are mainly available during the rainy season, efforts are made to preserve and dry leaves and fruits for later use. Most of them are dried and stored. However, a lot more effort is required to increase the life span and the quality of many NWFP. The idea obtained from informants is that preservation is the key to the promotion of veld food. For example, if there is a way to preserve marula wine, as is happening in South Africa, many people will buy marula wine whenever they want it. Bird plums are dried with a certain level of moisture content being left in the fruit. This can easily be compared with grapes. Packaging will also contribute to the life span of the products.
Furthermore, the common names (local names) of some NWFPs, such as some fruit trees, need to be changed. Among others these tree species are; Monkey orange, Jackals berries, Bird plums. These names imply that the fruits are food for certain animals and not for human beings.